I’m too young to remember first-hand the siege that took place on April 30th 1980 in which six armed gun-men took the occupants of the Iranian Embassy in London hostage.
I have, like many people, subsequently seen the footage of the Special Air Services (SAS) storming the embassy to bring the hostage situation to an end, but don’t ever remember knowing too much about the who and why.
Writer Glenn Standring (McLaren, Truth About Demons) and director Toa Fraser (The Dead Lands, Giselle) bring the story to the big screen.
Jamie Bell (Snowpiercer, The Adventures Of Tintin), stars as Rusty Firmin who was one of the 30-something SAS soldiers to take part in the original raid. He also later wrote a book about the siege and served as a technical advisor to the film.
The six-men took the hostages and requested that Iran release 91 Arab prisoners. Iran refused to play-ball, instead saying they were happy for the hostages to be used as martyrs.
Whilst you may be hoping for a guns-blazing, embassy storming action flick, what you get focuses much more on the work of Mark Strong and the position he finds himself in whilst the powers that be in Whitehall discuss what to do.
Tim Pigott-Smith (Gangs Of New York, Quantum Of Solace) plays Margaret Thatcher’s right-hand man, the one telling Robert Portal (The King’s Speech, The Iron Lady), Colonel Mike Rose of the SAS, what she wants to do.
Exactly what Thatcher wanted to do has gone on to be the hard-line and default way Britain now deals with terrorists.
Despite the SAS coming up with numerous plans that involved not storming the embassy, something they didn’t want to entertain as there were too many unknowns, Thatcher wanted to show the world how Britain dealt with terrorists.
She ordered that, should a hostage be killed, the SAS should storm the embassy, night or day, in full view of the world’s press that were camped outside.
As we follow the sterling work Vernon does as he tries to negotiate with the terrorists despite a lack of help from other countries, including Iran, Jamie Bell and co plan for an attack.
They look at various options, from a storm, giving the terrorists a bus and taking them at Heathrow, even creeping into the embassy at night and taking the men out whilst they sleep. Something Whitehall refuses for fear of it being branded an ‘SAS assassination’.
In the end, Thatcher got what she wanted as Vernon is unable to deliver on any of the terrorists demands and they, after six days, lose patient and kill a hostage.
The subsequent raid doesn’t go entirely smoothly, with one of the SAS getting caught up as he abseils down the side of the building, but just two hostages were killed, both by the terrorists.
The film uses a good mix of original footage and original news stories mixed into the modern take. This then, makes Abbie Cornish’s portrayal of Kate Adie a little odd.
I don’t see why they didn’t use the original footage as they do elsewhere. I found Cornish’s portrayal aggravating, as if she was trying to portray Adie on a sketch show.
Apart from that, and the relatively slow pace until the storm in the last five minutes, 6 Days is a good film.
Both Mark Strong and Jamie Bell are fantastic in their roles. Strong as the negotiator caught between a rock and a hard place whilst Bell wonderfully shows the frustration as the SAS gear-up then stand down, then gear-up again, then stand down again before finally getting the green light.
6 Days may not be perfect, but it does a good job of bringing the tension to a situation where most people will already know the outcome.